American: The Bill Hicks Story (2009) D: Matt Harlock & Paul Thomas

American: The Bill Hicks Story

American: The Bill Hicks Story tells the story of Bill Hicks’ life using interviews with the comedian’s immediate family, personal friends and comedy peers. Bill Hicks was a firebrand US comedian with radical ideas about drugs, politics and society.

Beginning his stand-up career at the inconceivable age of 14 by sneaking out to a comedy club in Houston (to which his comedy partner Dwight Slade, also 14 drove), Hicks quickly became a local fixture who wanted to branch out. Struggling for recognition in his country of origin, Hicks found phenomenal success in Britain, and then elsewhere, where his knife-edge poke at the USA found wider appreciation. The excess of life on the circuit soon overcame Hicks and he fought with addiction to alcohol, cocaine and other drugs. – becoming somewhat of an oddity as he performed under the influence. When he emerged on the other side, sober, he was all the more radical for it.

The journey through Hick’s career is interspersed with a generous dose of video footage of Hicks’ best routines and highly effective use of Flash-style animation with archival photographs. Virtually bringing Hicks’ childhood to life by animating family photos, landmarks and official public records, the film puts a welcome fresh twist on the usual Ken Burns’ style slow-zoomed photos.

Given that Hicks died aged 33 of pancreatic cancer, it was hardly surprising that an undertone of tragedy hung heavy over the film. Even viewers who may not have known that cancer eventually claimed Hicks’ life will have felt the inevitable tragedy his lifestyle seemed to invite. But while the film is greatly poignant, it is also completely hysterical – much like the subject himself.

Comedians have come to say of Hicks, and they said it while he was alive, in comedy there is Bill Hicks and then there’s everyone else. Hicks’ politically charged, intelligent and ideologically compassionate routines were in a class of their own and are sadly missed in a ‘War On Terror’ environment. See for yourself and buy the Sane Man DVD now.

A superbly funny and moving look at the most controversial comedian since Lenny Bruce. 4.5 stars

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~ by mfnm on July 21, 2010.

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